'I looked and I scratched… then I saw little Courtney Pieters' - volunteer who found murdered toddler's body (WARNING: Sensitive content)

2018-05-30 17:13
Pamela Scholtz with Juanita Pieters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Pamela Scholtz with Juanita Pieters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Courtney Pieters' little body was found covered with a thorn bush by a volunteer who had heeded a call to assist in a search for the missing toddler, the Western Cape High Court heard on Wednesday.

Pamela Scholtz recognised the three-year-old girl by her embroidered denim shorts her mother Juanita had said she was wearing the last time she was seen, nine days earlier.

The State's third witness in the murder and rape trial against Mortimer Saunders said she had decided to join the search for the child after becoming aware of her disappearance via the news.

Saunders faces charges of premeditated murder and rape, but denies that the toddler's death was planned or that he had sex with her while she was alive.

In his plea explanation, he confessed to murder and to using his fingers to penetrate her after her death.

READ: Photo used for Courtney Pieters' missing person flyers came from her killer's phone (Warning: Sensitive details)

Saunders said he had given Courtney ant poison to make her sick, before he choked and beat her and used a towel to close her mouth.

He claimed he had done it because of "ill feelings" between him and Juanita.

Saunders - a childhood friend of Courtney's father who lived in the same house - had also ostensibly been irritated because the toddler had wanted to watch TV in his room, and he had wanted to sleep.

Scholtz is from Leiden, Delft, where she does community work and is a member of her local neighbourhood watch.

Courtney had been missing for five days when she joined the search party.

'I saw the child lying there'

On Saturday, May 13, 2017, neighbourhood watches from across the city assisted in the quest to find the little girl.

Even Saunders, who on Monday in his plea explanation admitted guilt to poisoning, choking and beating Courtney, had been part of the search party.

Scholtz, along with her team of three, supervised by a police captain, had checked on the various groups' progress and accompanied him in his car, she testified.

The officer, at one point, needed to refuel and went to a garage in Epping, Scholtz said.

While there, one of the members of their team, who happened to be a relative of Courtney, told the policeman they also needed to check a local field near the factories, used by pedestrians on their way to work.

At the site, Scholtz remembered she had searched a section on her own, as the relative was worried about the thorns on the field going through her boots.

"I looked, and I scratched… then I saw little Courtney Pieters. I saw the child lying there," Scholtz testified, before starting to cry.

She pointed out her location on scene photos, taken near the train tracks behind a silicone factory in Epping Industria.

Scholtz said she stood centimetres from the little body but hadn't touched it.

'I was emotional when I saw that girl there'

Only the bottom half of her body was visible, and she recognised the denim shorts with the embroidered flower her mother had said Courtney had been dressed in the day she went missing.

Courtney had not been wearing any shoes.

ALSO READ: Child killer apologises to murdered Courtney Pieters' mother for 'what he has done' (Warning: sensitive details)

"I was emotional when I saw that girl there. I had turned and looked straight into her feet."

Scholtz recalled sitting down on the tracks for a few minutes, before shouting to draw the search party's attention.

She showed the officer where to look and he phoned his superiors to confirm they had found the body of a child.

Scholtz testified that, on her second day of being part of the search party, they had searched each house in Pluto Street, including the home Courtney had lived in.

Scholtz had also helped comb through Saunders' room that night, while he sat on his bed.

She said she had asked Saunders if that was his room, and he had said "yes".

"I said he must clean up his room [because] it looks very untidy for a young man," and walked out.

Blankets had been lying around and porridge packages had been left open.

"It just looked upside down," she said.

She denied seeing any ants.

Scholtz confirmed she had never met Saunders before that evening.

The matter resumes on June 6 to allow the State to consult their expert witnesses.

Read more on:    courtney pieters  |  mortimer saunders  |  cape town  |  crime

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